Are You Truly a Leader?

John Maxwell’s one word definition of leadership is this: Influence

I agree, sort of. Only sort of because what you do doesn’t make you a leader, why you do it does.

Dictionaries define influence as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Everyone has at least a little influence. We all have some effect the behavior of those around us, just as they have some effect on ours. We have that effect whether we intend to or not. So does that mean everyone is a leader whether they intend to be or not? I would say no.

That means we probably cannot define leadership with just one word. We need two.

Intentional influence. Okay, maybe we need three words…. Intentional directed influence.

Wandering around influencing others does not make you a leader. Being keenly aware of your influence and using it to intentionally change behavior and build character makes you a leader.

Now, for those of you who do not currently have a fancy title or top position and believe you need one to be a leader let me say this:

You don’t.

People don’t follow titles or positions. They follow people and the people they choose to follow are the ones who they believe care about them enough to help them succeed.

Now, for those of you who do have a title or position and believe that makes you a leader let me say this:

It doesn’t.

If your influence comes only from your title or position then you may be a manager, you may be a boss, but you’re almost certainly not a leader. Your title may give you a little higher level of influence temporarily but consider this…

If you lost your title, lost your position, lost your authority to reward and discipline, would you get the same results from the people around you? Would your influence level remain high? Would people still follow you?

Those are huge questions. To answer yes you need an amazing amount of confidence in your leadership ability. I hope you were able to answer yes. Be aware however, the brights lights of important sounding titles and lofty positions can blind even the most well intentioned person to their shortcomings. So if you answered yes I also hope your people would agree with you. If you AND your people agree then there can be no doubt; you are truly a leader.

Influencing others is a part of life, intentionally influencing others is the essence of leadership. Don’t squander your chance at leadership by just letting influence happen. Be intentional with how you influence, influence to build, influence to build people and organizations. Develop positive influence.

When your influence is positive your leadership can outlast you. That’s great leadership!

8 thoughts on “Are You Truly a Leader?

  1. Reblogged this on maffavor and commented:
    The essence of my leadership Is to intentionally influence young girls:, influence to build a clear self image, confidence and to unleash the God given potentials in them to fulfill purpose and eventually become influential themselves.

  2. Great. Agreed. Aside, I note you have written about Ebola on your blog before, so what’s your take on the current violence over Ferguson and others, and the issue of police brutality in the US. I’m not American, but I will fullyunderstand if you refuse to engage with this isssue, or if you don’t want to answer this question. However, for someone of your stature, to whom tens of thousands of people look to, and listen to, I’d think you have a responsibility in that it may be good to get a heartfelt and honest (perhaps Christian) perspective to what is truly a sad issue.

  3. I fully agree with your statement, “If your influence comes only from your title or position then you may be a manager, you may be a boss, but you’re almost certainly not a leader.” Well said!

    1. Thanks, it is always disappointing to see someone with true leadership potential simply “coast” when they get a title or position, thinking that they have “made it.” Leadership is a process of continually learning, it is much more of a journey than it is a destination.

  4. Influence! Yes a good leader has it and a new or bad leader needs to earn it. I have had influence before I came a leader from a title. When I became a leader from a title I thought I would instantly have influence, boy was I wrong! It takes a long time to earn influence.

    1. Absolutely positively correct! No one can give anyone influence, it MUST be earned! Anyone that thinks their title gives them influence will never really have it.

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